The Economist suspects number of coronavirus-related deaths in Serbia much higher than official data show

Official statistics show that 4,810 people in Serbia have lost their battle with the coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic. However, a huge question mark hangs over the official stats. Doubts arose in late June last year, when BIRN presented figures that were completely different from those that had been officially reported. Now, the British magazine The Economist is saying the same.

The eminent British magazine reports that Serbia ranks 7th on the list of 50 countries in term of so-called “excess deaths”, after Peru, Russia, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Mexico. In the period from April 1, 2020 to January 31, 2021, 4,000 people died from the coronavirus in Serbia, while the number of “excess deaths” is 17,090. The number of “excess deaths” per 100,000 people is 247.

According to The Economist, there are several reasons for this: the first is that official statistics in many countries exclude victims who were not tested for the coronavirus before death, whose number can be quite high in places where this practice is not used much.

Another reason is that hospitals and the bureaucracy don’t process death certificates for days, even weeks, which leads to data delays. And the third reason is that the pandemic has made it difficult for doctors to treat patients with other symptoms and has discouraged people from going to the hospital for fear of being infected, which could indirectly cause an increase in the number of deaths from diseases other than the coronavirus.

One way to enumerate these methodological problems is to use a measure known as “excess deaths” which are typically defined as the difference between the observed numbers of deaths in specific time periods and expected numbers of deaths in the same time periods.  The Economist used statistical models to predict the number of deaths each country would experience in 2020 if the situation was “normal.”

Doubts about the death toll have persisted for months. Last summer, BIRN reported that 632 patients had died of the coronavirus in Serbia from March 19 to June 1, 2020, which is 388 more than the officially declared number for that period, which was 244, a figure that appeared on the official state information system Covid-19.

Statisticians are also suspicious of some recent data. In the last few weeks, official statistics speak of numbers ranging from 13 to 17 coronavirus-related deaths per day. For several days in a row, there have been 17 deaths a day and experts say this is virtually impossible.

All this time, the media have been trying to find out the truth about the number of deaths. After The Economist published the article suspecting that the number of coronavirus-related deaths in Serbia is higher than official figures, the website approached the relevant institutions and persons (Predrag Kon, Darija Kisić Tepavčević, Branislav Tiodorović, Mirsad Đerlek and Verica Jovanović) to ask for clarification of these allegations and doubts, but none of them commented as yet.

(Nova, 17.03.2021)




This post is also available in: Italiano

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